My Morning Jacket
Hands down, the best rock show of the year. My Morning Jacket tore up the Aladdin Theater on Saturday evening like it was scraps of useless cardboard. Like it was paper to start a fire. For nearly two hours, My Morning Jacket rocked a sold-out audience to the point of no return. M. Ward, Portland’s own beloved musical recluse, even joined them on stage for the encore. And not just for one number. It was no, “Hi, I’m gonna play a solo and leave.” M. Ward sat in on four songs, as he and Jim James traded solo after solo, burning lick after burning lick, looking like something straight out of “Rust Never Sleeps.” What made the Jacket’s performance so spectacular was that they never followed a predictable path. Touring in support of their newest LP, Z, the band countered barnburners with near-waltzes, glorified country rock with quiet, introspective experimentation. And by god were they loud. I still can’t hear right. Anyone in the building doused in gasoline would have caught fire just by getting close to the stage. Seriously. Has a band ever rocked this hard and done it with this much melody and intelligence? Nope. Hell, at one point, late in the show, looking back at the screaming, dancing crowd, while James was on stage killing his guitar, I think I had an epiphany.
Melvins, Jello Biafra
After last week’s Deerhoof debacle, I was burnt out on live music. But luckily, events conspired to forcefully pull me out of my rut, and when I entered the Crystal Ballroom, Portland’s own Hunches were already on stage in full raucous glory. The rhythm section practically smacked me in the face as I walked up to the stage, supplanted by a beautiful din of feedback and noise guitar. Frontman Hart Glendhill wailed and writhed on the floor amongst the audience, which the Crystal employees must not have been so hot on since they kicked him out after the show. Nevertheless, it was a raucous harbinger of things to come. Altamont took the stage next, a band that had obviously been boning up on their Melvins back-catalogue. The high point of their set was the extended keyboard noise-jam they put on as the almighty Melvins set up their gear, thoughtfully keeping the crowd entertained through that normally boring time. But when Buzz Osborne struck the first leaden, sludgy riff, all else was forgotten and the crowd went wild. At least 20 people were dragged off by bouncers for attempting to crowd surf or stage dive, and hair was flying like it was 1989. After powering through a short set of their hits, Jello Biafra ran onstage in a bloody smock and began yelping and gesticulating wildly as the super-group began a set of tracks from their new long player, Sieg Howdy, mixed up with a few Dead Kennedys classics. Simply put, it was rock at its heaviest and finest. Jello even managed to crowd surf without being kicked out. By the time the set concluded with a Wesley Willis cover, everyone was sweaty and exhausted. Even if Jello has gotten a little fat over the years, I couldn’t have asked for a better spectacle.
Citizen Cope (solo)
I didn’t know what to expect. Clarence Greenwood, aka Citizen Cope, plays some mellow music combined with an East Coast vibe that’s heady with laid-back beats. It’s cool. But a trip to his web site gave rise to some insecurities; any musician whose web site offers ringtones is a reasonable cause for concern. The Doug Fir was packed Thursday night, drawing in plenty of couples who could grind against one another while their heads nodded to the acoustic rhythm that showed Greenwood’s guitar-playing abilities. To draw in a crown with an acoustic show when the record your audience knows you from isn’t is a surprise, to make them happy even more so. And Greenwood pulled it off. With just a guitar and mike he was able to recreate the music that’s accompanied with instruments like a drum machine, keyboard and percussions. The smell of pot floated in the air as the audience occasionally sang along to chorus sections of songs, relaxing with the music that only asked for you to listen.